Discipline makes Daring possible.



At this morning’s Like-Hearted Leaders gathering we had an interesting discussion around what leadership is or could be.

It was an interesting, intricate, circular discussion.

But in the end, I think what leadership could be might be best summed up in the LHL values:

  • Real conversations, even if they are difficult.
  • Courage to be vulnerable.
  • Growth & Learning comes through thoughtful feedback.
  • Freedom of expression, where everyone is worthy of contributing.
  • Amplify others.
  • Trust grows in balanced relationships of give and take.

It’s an interesting question though.

What does leadership mean to you?

What does it mean to whoever you lead?

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

3 years ago today, I started writing this blog.

From my perspective, it’s been one of the best things I’ve done, and of course I plan to continue.

How has it been for you?



Circles are an interesting form of organisation.  Like King Arthur’s famous Round Table, nobody is ‘above’ or ‘below’ anyone else.  All are on a level.

A circle can be the basis of useful mechanisms for sharing work fairly, without the need for discussion, consensus building or command.

For instance, if you all work in an office, someone has to open up each day.   Often it’s one person’s job.   What happens when they don’t turn up?

You could decide to give everyone a key, and it’s simply the first to arrive that opens up.    But if you are the habitually early one, you might start to resent being the only one who has to do this in practice.

Or you could create an ‘opening up ‘ circle (which could include everyone) and do it by rotation.  You might even use a single set of special keys to make the mechanism visible, perhaps even more like a game.

There are probably more jobs that could be organised in this way.   You could rotate delivery drivers through different routes or rounds, to give them a change and to introduce customers to more of your team.   You could rotate people through networking events in the same way.  You could even rotate people through Roles to expand their experience and get clients used to the idea that anyone in your business can help them equally well.

The beauty of a circle is that you can start anywhere, and go clockwise or anti-clockwise.  You can choose whatever frequency you like for the rotation.  It can even accommodate absences – you just jump the gap if today’s person is missing.  Best of all, there’s no room for argument.  Everyone takes their turn, then forgets about the job until it comes round again.

No need to write up complex rotas, just draw up your circles, put them somewhere visible, and set them going.

How powerful a signal it would be if everyone, including the boss, took their spot?

Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture

The factory pictured here isn’t an old relic.  A few months ago it was home to a growing light industrial business, manufacturing variations of the thing they invented back in the ’60s.   They were evicted to make way for a residential investment opportunity.

The same is happening all around this part of the Old Kent Road.  Not just to factories, but to car-maintenance workshops, independent logistics firms and pentecostal churches.   Around a 1,000 jobs in total, spread across a 100 small independent firms – who want to grow, if only they could find the space.

We’re used to thinking of the North and Midlands as being our centres of manufacturing, but London has always had more of it, just lighter, and spread over a larger area.

But residential tower blocks yield higher returns.   So, slowly, all evidence that real businesses making real things for real people actually existed here will be gone.

It is possible to mix light industrial and residential, or office and residential, to build places for people to live and work.   That’s happening in Zurich – the ultimate money-metropolis.

But clearly that involves acknowledging a manufacturing culture.

It’s easier to erase it.  No matter what the long-term cost.

Our greatest tool

Our greatest tool

Following nicely on from the last post, I recommend this series of posts from my friend Mary Jane Copps – The Phone Lady.

You’re probably familiar with the idea that as humans we are wired to look for stories, which means that telling them is a great form of marketing.

What Mary Jane makes us realise is that before you can tell your own story effectively, you have to first find the story of the person you are talking to.  Not the story of the avatar you’ve created to ‘represent’ them, but the actual story of the actual person you are speaking to right now.


Because “It’s within their story that your value takes root.

That means that whatever your process for communicating one-to-one with prospects or clients is,  it must have room for curiosity, and enough flex to accommodate the learning you gain by exercising that curiosity.

Seeing ourselves

Seeing ourselves

We humans are used to thinking of ourselves as self-aware, or self-conscious.

Except that most of the time we aren’t.   We work on auto-pilot, following our habitual paths, working through habitual behaviours without consciously reflecting at all.

We do have moments of conscious awareness – when we’re thinking, or working out a problem – but these really are moments.  7 seconds on average.

Except when we are in conversation with other humans.   In conversation, we think, we reflect, we are fully self-conscious.   Sometimes for hours on end.   You might even say that conversations with other people are where we fully realise ourselves.

And of course, you can’t have a proper conversation without being fully conscious of the other participants too.

You can’t be seen until you learn to see.  Not even by yourself.



“There‚Äôs an interesting rule called the 70-20-10 rule, which states that 70% of learning comes from doing, 20% comes from observing in relationship, and only 10% comes from actual instruction.”

This is from my friend Grace Judson’s leadership newsletter (well worth subscribing to).

Here’s how you might apply it if you have a Customer Experience Score in place:

  • Instruction: The person/people who want to develop into a new or additional Role read the Customer Experience Score, so they know what to play.
  • Observing in relationship: They observe someone already proficient in that Role playing the Score for real, with real clients.  At this stage these clients will come under the 80% of straightforward cases.
  • Instruction: They read the Customer Experience Score again, this time with some real examples to draw on.
  • Doing+Observing in relationship: They play the Score themselves, as a practice, not with real clients, but with experienced players taking the Role of clients, or fellow newbies armed with scenarios.   Start with the straightforward cases until people feel comfortable with that.   You know people have learned when they are able to critique each other.
  • Doing: While this is fresh in their mind, they play for real, with the Score at hand for reference, with real but straightforward clients.
  • Doing+Observing in relationship: Hold another group practice session.  This time, explore some of the 20% non-straightforward cases.  Your experienced players will love coming up with examples of these!
  • Doing: With this fresh in their mind, and the Score at hand for reference, you can let them play for real, with any kind of real client.

It’s a good idea to hold regular reviews of the Score, as part of group practice sessions.  Over time, people will internalise the Score, but not necessarily as it is written.  You want to share desirable variations and eliminate the undesirable ones.   Regular group practice will enable this.

It is of course possible to do all this without a Customer Experience Score.  It will be harder though, because you have to spend time agreeing whose version of ‘how we do things round here’ is the right one.

Old possibilities

Old possibilities

For more than 40,000 years, human beings have been imagining and re-imagining new possibilities for how we live in the world.

We can’t stop now.

We can do better than this.



There’s something very attractive about anonymity.   It’s one of the pleasures of living in a town – you can wander unrecognised, without meeting anyone you know.

The real problem with villages – or any village-sized community – is not that “everyone knows everyone else’s business“, but that the consequence of that is a heavy load of emotional labour.  You can’t walk down the street without having to greet someone, ask after them, take an interest in their affairs, respond to their interest in yours.  You have to see them, recognise them as co-habitants, consider their needs in your decisions.  Everything becomes a negotiation between you and your neighbours.

If you think that village life is bad, imagine what it would be like if every living thing was also an honorary person.  If every tree, rabbit, and dandelion was a neighbour, requiring you to take an interest in their affairs, and taking an interest in yours.

Now add in ancestors, and you’ve got a recipe for emotional exhaustion, because trees, rabbits, dandelions and dead people don’t communicate their desires very clearly, so it’s easy to be wrong.

No wonder we leapt at the chance to have someone take this burden off our shoulders.  To appoint a priest or a king whose sole job it was to deal with all these matters, so we can just get on with our day-to-day lives, able to treat the wildlife and the ghosts as strangers, saving our emotional labour for our living neighbours.

We’ve gone much further than that since, of course.   Now even our neighbours are strangers.  Amazon and Just-Eat, Mondelez and JBS S.A. have replaced priests and kings, taking care of all those matters we don’t want to be burdened with, hiding what we don’t want to see.   Our connection to the trees, rabbits and dandelions has been attenuated almost to nothing.  Our villages are empty.

There’s a downside to anonymity of course.   After a while, you long to be seen, to be recognised as a human being, to be known again.   We long for the company of people who know everything about us.  We want to feel at home.

We can’t go back.  Perhaps we have to create a new kind of village.